THE LATEST reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy have come under heavy criticism by a former chief economist at the NFU.

TheGuardian reports Séan Rickard – now a lecturer in agricultural economics at Cranfield University – as being heavily damning of the latest reforms on a number of counts.

“Just how much of the claimed environmental benefits produced by farmers would be delivered anyway if the single farm payment was phased out?” asks Mr Rickard.

He points out that 20% of the UK‘s CAP claimants farm about two-thirds of the agricultural land area.

“The evidence is clear. These larger scale farms are less damaging to the environment than their smaller counterparts,” he said.

“The reason is straight forward. In order to grow and prosper, a farm has to be managed to very high standards and it is the management skill of the farmer, not the size of the farm, that is critical to the delivery of higher environmental standards.”

“Research shows that it is the larger scale, lower cost, better managed farms that put resources into care and support for the environment”.

“It [the SFP] does not involve the delivery of additional environmental benefits.

Yet, by making the payment conditional, the authorities have more than doubled the administritive costs which are not included in the £3bn of support”.

“The fear in official circles must be that all of this will be exposed if farmers treat the SFP as a seperate cashflow to be spent on non-farm activities,” said Mr Rickard.

He concluded: “In short we are wasting public funds in paying these farms to do what they would be doing anyway.”

In his opinion the money directed at farmers through the CAP would be better spent on improving the nations, schools, hospitals and road network.